Becoming Smaller and Smaller

Bigger is better, so we hear. We live in a world that wants things larger and larger. We want to supersize our fries, sodas, SUVs, and church buildings. Cities build bigger stadiums and conventions want to draw the biggest crowds. Amid all the supersizing, I want to make a modest suggestion: our goal should be not to get larger and larger but to get smaller and smaller. I think of the kingdom of God as bubbling up from the bottom rather than trickling down from the top. Contrary to the pattern of the world, it is like a mustard seed. To enter it, we must become like a little child. God is indeed taking over the world, but it is happening through little acts of love…

We have a God who enters the world through smallness – a baby refugee, a homeless rabbi, the lilies and the sparrows. We have a God who values the little offering of a couple of coins from a widow over the megacharity of millionaires.

Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution

The world doesn’t need bigger churches.

The world doesn’t need more Christian speakers (and blogs and podcasts for that matter.)

We aren’t called to become bigger and bigger, but smaller and smaller.

Jesus preached to the crowds, yes.

There is some value in blogs, sermons, programs, retreats, and seminars.

But the majority of what Jesus did on earth was invest in 12 close friends.

Real relationships.

Micro ministries not mega churches.

Breaking bread in homes, not cathedrals.

This theme was echoed by Jennie Allen at the IF Gathering this year:

Deeper is better than bigger. 

It’s time to stop trying to go big and go small.

Stop trying to go viral and go smaller. 

Go quieter.

Taking someone to coffee.

Going for a walk in the park.

Reading the bible and worshipping together in a living room.

We live in such a noisy world.

Someone is always talking to us, trying to get our attention – phones, ads, debates, children.

Satan wants to distract us with all the noise that isn’t God.

It’s just like when God spoke to the prophet Elijah at Mt. Horeb.

God wasn’t in the wind.

God wasn’t in the earthquake.

God wasn’t in the fire.

God was the still, small voice that came afterward.

The gentle whisper.

If we aren’t actively listening, we’ll miss it.

Greatness is rarely achieved by doing great things, but instead by doing good things repetitively.

The tragedy is that, while waiting for great opportunities to come along, we miss out on a parade of good opportunities that march steadily by. Goodness is largely ignored because it seems too common, too mundane, too everyday…

Goodness grows slowly.

It arrives through the repeated kindness of the diligent faithful.

It arrives quietly, traveling the slow path of devoted love.

Dream Big but Think Small.

Jeff Manion

Jesus isn’t about building platforms. He’s about making disciples.

Events, speakers, and videos don’t spread the gospel as well as individuals.

Why do you think God chose to spread his kingdom to the ends of the earth with just 12 individuals?

Why do you think this approach was effective?

How can we implement these real relationships in our lives today?

We can start by investing in people at a small, personal level.

Pour into your children. They are your biggest influence. It’s not glamorous, but it’s important.

Jesus used unqualified and imperfect people. 

He can use us.

You’re capable of discipling anywhere.

Go where you are sent.

Stay where you are put until he asks you to move on.

Stay where you’re put if that’s what he’s telling you – not everyone is called to go overseas and do “big” stuff.

Discipleship is doing life together.

Loving one another.

Having an open door.

Runs together.

Dinner together.

Prayer together.

Worship together.

It isn’t complicated.

It’s listening.

Being vulnerable.

The Apostle Paul summed up discipleship very simply: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

Do we have lives worth imitating?

And are we giving people access to our lives?

To our real, unfiltered, unglamorous lives?

Open the door to your life.

Share your story.

Tell what God has done.

Prioritize the small things.

Maybe give up some “big” things if they are distracting you from the still, small voice.

Make a list of people to be your 12. 

Include your spouse if you’re married, and your children if you have children.

They are the ones on whom you have the largest impact.

But don’t forget your “adopted” sons and daughters and brothers and sisters.

I’m not saying we should completely abandon our organized charities and programs.

Jesus cared about the crowds and spent his time among them.

But he mostly invested in 12 individuals.

Do we currently have it backward?

Do those closest to us fade into the background while we’re busily “ministering” to the masses?

When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live your life radiating that love. I always say that love starts at home: family first and then your own town or city. It is easy to love people who are far away but it is not always so easy to love those who live with us or right next to us. I do not agree with the big way of doing things – love needs to start with an individual. To get to love a person you must contact that person, become close. Everyone needs love. All must know that they are wanted and that they are important to God.

Mother Teresa, A Simple Path

Most of the images Jesus offers for the kingdom of God are small and subtle. Seeds. Light. Yeast. Things you can’t even see but they spread like crazy. And I love the mustard seed metaphor for the kingdom. Mustard grew like a wild and invasive weed. Jews had laws against growing mustard in their gardens, because it would take over the whole garden, leaving them with only mustard. Mustard is a humble plant though. It didn’t grow huge like the Cedars of Lebanon or the giant redwoods in California. Mature mustard only stands 8 to 10 feet high, a modest little bush. What a beautiful image of how the kingdom of God takes over the world – a small, subtle, humble invasion of goodness and grace.

Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Revolution

How can you pray, fellowship, break bread, and invest in one another? How can we learn to focus on the small, important things rather than the big, fleeting things?

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